After seeing incumbent starting quarterback Philip Rivers retire, the Indianapolis Colts found their next answer at the position by swinging a trade for Carson Wentz. Or more accurately, the Colts agreed with the Philadelphia Eagles to complete a trade when for Wentz when the new league year opens next month.
That distinction is why Colts coach Frank Reich technically cannot talk about Wentz in public, which complicated his question and answer session with local reporters on Thursday. Because he cannot talk about Wentz specifically, Reich instead spoke in generalities about certain types of players with certain characteristics, making it clear he was referring to Wentz in all but name.
For example, Reich was asked about confidence and how it can affect a quarterback's play, a clear reference to Wentz's loss of confidence in Philadelphia last season.
"A very relevant question," Reich said, per The Athletic. "The confidence level of players (is important) at every position, certainly not just quarterback. I think one of the great misnomers is that sometimes fans think these are the greatest players in the world, (but) everybody loses confidence for a moment. It may be brief, but it always goes back the same way. One of the ways to build confidence back is you go back to the basics. You go back to the fundamentals and technique. You go back to the basic schemes and you build it one play at a time. That's true for any of us. So, that's the way we'll handle every position."
Luckily for Reich, Wentz, and the Colts, the team's new quarterback already knows the basic schemes, because Reich used to be Wentz's offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. Reich addressed that as well, through the prism of Rivers. Reich had previously been Rivers' offensive coordinator in San Diego before they reunited in Indy last year.
"It really accelerated (progress), especially in the unique circumstances that we're in with COVID and the limited offseason that we had," Reich said of Rivers' pre-existing knowledge of the scheme. "It just helped accelerate the learning process of the offense. The relationship that has to be built, there's a personal aspect to the coaching of players. This isn't just in a vacuum. There's a personal element to it. So, anytime there's a personal connection with a player and a familiarity with the offense and the terminology, and what you're trying to accomplish and the vision for what you're trying to do, it can help accelerate. I think Philip showed that very clearly. For him to be able to come in and play the way he did and to lead the offense and the team the way he did, I think it helped a ton."
One thing Wentz has that Rivers didn't, though, is mobility. Sometimes he leans too much on that mobility, trying to turn every play into a home run, but Reich seems excited to weaponize that skill within the confines of the system. With "a quarterback who is more mobile, you get more nakeds and more bootlegs. He's a threat to run, so he can make the play-action game look a little different," Reich said. That should work to Wentz's advantage, especially with a strong offensive line in front of him.
There's a lot of work to be done to get Wentz back playing at a starter level, let alone the level he reached when he was an MVP candidate in 2017. The Colts' bet is that the familiarity with both the coach and the system will provide a baseline for success.